Sharps management is an important component of a dental practice. A sharp is anything that can pierce skin, this includes, needles, scalpel blades, anesthetic carpules, orthodontic wires, etc. All practices using sharps are liable for their proper containment and ultimate disposal. A quality sharps program requires multiple considerations but can be readily established and maintained with proper preparation.
Protect Your Patients and Staff
The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000 requires healthcare providers to develop exposure control plans to minimize the potential for needle sticks. The vast majority of sharps-related injuries in the dental setting area are the result of inadvertent sticks. The likelihood of these accidents can be reduced by following a few simple steps.
- Approved containers should be used for the recovery of sharps, needles, and lancets.
- Containers should be as close to the work area as possible to minimize handling.
- Do not leave sharps unattended in the operatory or elsewhere.
- Do not carry uncapped sharps through walkways used by patients.
Stay Compliant with Local Requirements
Certain states and counties have specific allowable storage times for sharps and non-sharps. Check with your local regulations to ensure compliance. Sharps containers come in various sizes. Use specific sharps container sizes that cater to your practice needs to maximize the use of your containers while maintaining compliance with regulations.
Sharps Compliance Guide (PDF)
Select the Appropriate Disposal Solution
A practice is legally responsible for their sharps waste disposal. There are two major ways to handle disposal. You can contract with a disposal contractor that schedules pickups or you can enroll in a mail-back program that includes return shipping when your containers are full.
Compare their services, options and requirements. Before you enter into a contract, find out how long the commitment you are making will last. Will the contract auto-renew or is there a defined termination or end date? Be sure you understand the steps that need to be taken to end the contract in case you later decide you want change vendors – what kind of notice is required and how far in advance must it be given? Ask about any maintenance and additional fees. There are pros and cons to either decision, you have to decide which option is best for you.
Protect Your Dental Team from All Percutaneous Injuries
Needle sticks are only a small part of all percutaneous injuries that occur in the dental practice. Some bur injuries occur when a hand-piece, resting in its holder, has an exposed bur pointing toward the dentist who accidentally scrapes a hand or arm against it. Read more about protecting yourself and your staff against percutaneous injury in the Professional Products Review article on Safe Injection Practices.
- OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (PDF)
- CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Engineering Controls and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Oral Health Topics: OSHA
- Employer Obligations After Exposure Incidents OSHA